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Now imagine “The Sopranos” getting a spin-off financed by the Norwegian Board of Film Subsidies and the Lilehammer Post-Olympics Tourism Promotion Committee, and further imagine that Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band guitarist has never been to Norway before and thinks it would make for a great family holiday to spend some days among the Vikings. The work packages are quickly divided: the Norwegians provide the settings and the actors, and Steven van Zandt brings his old coats and suits he nicked of the HBO sets and writes his own lines as if he was still on Tony Sopranos payroll. The result is “Lilyhammer”, a TV show that brings a bit of New Jersey mobster flair to the otherwise more than calm place of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Frank Tagliano gets there to hide from his former associates, but basically ignores the new environment and keeps doing what Silvio was doing, opening a club, pulling strings, manipulating the local politicians and businessmen, gambling and smoking.

I was well enough entertained by this, even though it is a far stretch from original. But van Zandt is consistent and works perfectly well as the ignorant crook who just refuses to change his ways just because he ended up at the colder end of the world. I am still hoping for a cameo from James Gandolfini in the next season, but even without it, I will be happy to keep crossing my fingers that the American mob won’t track him down, that his girl sticks with him, that his shoes won’t get ruined by the perennial snow and that he can end the neighbourhood war with the Norwegian garbage separation Nazis.

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